Dave Stark of Steel Addiction Knives said Tom Krein’s Alpha folders are among the hottest of custom EDC knives. These two Alphas are both frame locks, and Krein said the one with the blue handle is the first knife he built with the Ikoma Korth Bearing System (I.K.B.S.). (Point Seven photo)
Keep your pockets warm with the hottest in everyday carry knives
By Mike Searson
Everyday carry knives—a.k.a. EDC knives—are models most of us carry every day in our pockets, on our belts or even around our necks. An EDC knife is suited to such mundane tasks as opening a piece of mail or cutting an apple or, in a pinch, to cutting a seatbelt in an emergency situation.
To determine the hottest EDC knives, BLADE® went straight to some of the top custom and production knife dealers in North America. On the production front, which seems to be where the majority of EDC knives come into play, Mark Christensen at BladeHQ and Jason Kunkler of Knifecenter.com held court.
“The majority just seem to be based on personal preference,” Christensen began. “We don’t sell many ‘traditional pocketknives’—tactical knives are popular—and right now those seem to be butterfly knives and automatic knives, especially out-the-front automatics, MicroTech in particular. Anything made by MicroTech sells very fast, and Spyderco is very popular right now. As far as model numbers go, I would say for MicroTech it would be the Ultratech [Model 122-1] at a price point of $255, and for Spyderco it would be any of the Para Military 2 models [C81] that sell in the $115-$170 price range.
“I think the Para Military is popular because of the Compression locking mechanism, combined with Spyderco’s round hole design. This makes the knife very easy to use with one hand and with gloves, so ease of use and convenience make it a great EDC knife. The MicroTech models are popular because they make the best OTF knives on the market, and have gained a reputation for excellence.”
While agreeing with Christensen on the popularity of Spyderco, Kunkler said most of his customers are leery of newer locks and favor traditional locking liners, lockbacks, Benchmade’s Axis lock and even contemporary slip joints. He indicated his biggest sellers among EDC knives are the Benchmade Griptilian (based on options, $80-$100 MSRP), Spyderco Delica ($69.95 MSRP), various fixed blades by ESEE, and Boker’s International Collection offerings based on classic Fred Perrin designs. “The ESEE models are so popular they sell out on arrival,” he noted. “At a retail price of $85-$125 they are a lot of knife for the money and feel great in the hand.”
Kunkler seemed to speak for Christensen as well when he said, “If there’s one thing people are looking for in a knife, I think it’s just convenience or ease of use. The hottest EDC knives are those that are just ‘user-friendly.’”
“Price does not seem to matter as much as you might think,” Christensen added. “People are always looking for a good deal, but are willing to pay more for quality.” Kunkler said $100 is the upper end of the price limit for most people looking for an EDC knife, whereas most knife enthusiasts are willing to spend two to three times that amount.
As for handle materials, both retailers said titanium for locking-liner and frame-lock folders is very popular, with G-10, Zytel® or anodized aluminum also found on the top sellers. Blade finish is even more of a personal preference. Christensen said his customers have a slight inclination for black coated blades over other finishes, while Kunkler indicated his clients prefer satin finishes to everything else. “Mirror-polished blades went out in the 1980s with parachute pants,” he quipped.
As far as blade length, Christensen said “somewhere around 3 to 3.5 inches” is most popular. “Some people are looking for California-legal automatics with a blade under 2 inches, but, aside from those, most people don’t seem to be worried about blade length for legal reasons,” he qualified.
On the custom side, Neil Ostroff of True North Knives and Dave Stark of Steel Addiction Knives shared their knowledge. “Without question, the most desired knives are tactical flipper folders made with some kind of bearing pivot system, like I.K.B.S. [the Ikoma Korth Bearing System],” Ostroff observed. “Close behind those are the non-flipping tactical folders.
“In the non-flipping arena, Bob Terzuola just blazes along with refreshing variations of older stable models like the venerable ATCF [TNK’s list price: $750] and new designs all the time. His special USN Gathering knives are always snapped up quickly, and he takes many orders for more while selling out early on at show after show.”
Stark agreed, adding the hottest EDC knives among his customers are made by Rick Hinderer (the XM series), Tom Mayo (TNT), Tom Krein (Alpha K-1 Folder), Greg Lightfoot (Ground Fighter), Mick Strider (SnG and SMF) and Ernest Emerson (CQC6). “Price doesn’t even seem to be a factor, despite the economy,” he said. “Most Mayos and Emersons I receive on customer trade-ins have to go back to those makers, as there are scuffs in the bead blast from being carried—and these are $1,200-$2,000 knives.”
Ostroff differed on the price point, saying most of his customers look for a knife that is $500 or less from such makers as Brian Fellhoelter (Kink, at $450) or Kirby Lambert (Inferno, $500). Ostroff and Stark agreed that fit-and-finish, performance, comfort in the hand and “buying the maker” had more influence than blade steel or price point.
Of pocket clips and blade finish, Ostroff opined, “Pocket clips are vital on a folder, and tip-up is the only way to go as long as the knifemaker ensures that the detent is strong.” Stark said “deep-carry pocket clips” that hold the knife significantly lower in the pocket are a strong selling point. Both agreed that stonewashed, satin or bead-blasted finishes are more desirable than polished or coated ones.
As with their production counterparts, both custom purveyors said 3 inches and under is the desired length for those living in cities with blade-length restrictions. However, the optimal blade length for a tactical or utility EDC folder is just under 4 inches.
Stark indicated some customers buy small EDC fixed blades such as the TK-1 (his list price: $225) or Pocket Bowie (his list price: $265), both by Tom Krein, or a number of pieces from Bob Dozier. He said both makers have been backordered for a long time.
All four sources are unanimous on one thing: blade shape. While past trends have pointed to leaf-shaped, recurved and tanto blades, today’s hottest EDC knives tend to have more traditional blade profiles. As to a plain or serrated blade, it is a matter of personal preference, though plain edges seem the most popular for all concerned. Perhaps it can best be said that the hottest EDC knives combine classic designs and profiles with modern materials.
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